Oilers’ Underlying Numbers Show Major Improvements

Jonathan Willis
October 24 2011 01:33AM

We are now seven games into the Edmonton Oilers’ 2011-12 season. It’s obviously still very early – early enough for Milan Michalek to be a top-five scorer, Marc-Andre Bergeron to be leading all blue-liners in points, and for players like Nikolai Khabibulin (0.969 SV%) and Dan Ellis (0.966 SV%) to be in the running for the Vezina.

Given the short schedule each team has played, it’s difficult to read much into the Oilers’ record and overall totals. Yet, in the past, the underlying numbers have offered us a more accurate reading of where the team is really headed – and this year, they’re almost uniformly positive.

To start with, I thought it might be a good idea to revisit how the underlying shot totals have done in the past at showing the team’s true performance. In 2009-10, the team got off to a great start under new head coach Pat Quinn, going 6-2-1, and many were jubilant. Yet, as Tyler Dellow showed, there were warning signs despite the team’s great record:

The Oilers have been outshot 300-226 to date. I’ve had my head buried in other matters, but about all you can take from the results to date is that any team can get results in a short period. You can get a quick and dirty feel for this by just adding up a team’s save percentage and shooting percentage for a given span of games. The Bruins led the league in shooting percentage and save percentage last year; they added up to 103.4%. The Oilers are currently at 107.3%. I haven’t seen enough games to really have any opinions about what’s going on but you don’t make the playoffs like this. The shooting rates will presumably get closer over time; 300-226 is horrific, but it’ll take a lot to make up for the percentages falling back to earth.

As it happened, Dellow was completely right; the shot ratio did come back into balance a bit (the Oilers ended up getting outshot at a rate of roughly 300-256 over the course of the season) but the percentages dropped away and the Oilers imploded, finishing dead last. In that example, the shot clock was a far better indication of the Oilers’ future than the club’s overall record.

This year, the underlying numbers are uniformly positive. Let’s start by looking at the team’s 5-on-5 shots for/shots against per 60, comparing this year to one season ago.

Season 5v5 Shots For/60 5v5 Shots Against/60 5v5 Shots +/- per 60
2010-11 26.1 30.5 -4.4
2011-12 26.4 25.3 1.1
Difference 0.3 -5.2 5.5

There’s been a slight increase offensively, but the real breakthrough has been in terms of shots against; after posting a lousy number in 2010-11 the Oilers have been superb this season. The number may be too good to be true, in fact; it would have led the league last season. Even so, the Oilers have gone from being badly outshot one season ago to holding a slight edge in the play this year.

Really impressive, though, has been the change in special teams situations.

Season 5v4 Shots For/60 4v5 Shots Against/60
2010-11 41.8 56.2
2011-12 57.5 43.4
Difference 15.7 -12.9

By eye, the Oilers power play and penalty kill have been much better, with the PK in particular putting up gaudy numbers and the power play still lagging a little behind in terms of goals scored.

In terms of shot numbers, the change has been overwhelming; almost a complete inversion from last season when both units were terrible. The penalty kill has cut down its shots/60 by more than 25%, a massive increase, while the power play has increased its shots/60 by a nearly identical rate.

Once again, these numbers might be a little too good to be true; Vancouver’s power play last year averaged 56.0 shots/60, and expecting the Oilers to replicate that seems like a stretch. Similarly, the Flyers led the league last year on the penalty kill in terms of shots against/60, with a rate of 42.9, and expecting the Oilers to be in that range is setting the bar quite high.

At a guess, we’re probably seeing schedule effects to some degree here – the Oilers have played five games at home to just two on the road after all – and as teams adapt to the Oilers changes in personnel and procedure it would make sense if we see the efficiency of the club’s special teams drop a bit. It’s also worth noting, again, that the team has only played a total of seven games.

With those caveats noted, this is tremendous news for the Oilers. The combination of incoming personnel – especially on the penalty kill, where Eric Belanger and Ryan Smyth are huge additions – and coaching adjustments this season have both units humming along at optimum levels, and even if they drop back a bit from where they are currently they will be much improved over a year ago.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 @NateInVegas
October 24 2011, 02:39AM
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Are you saying that Tyler Seguin won't lead the NHL in +/- the rest of the season?

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#2 Woodguy
October 24 2011, 06:27AM
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Ah, you can make your stats say anything, why don't you just watch the g....wait....the stats say the Oilers are good?

Whoo!! Stats are awesome!

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#3 m3sh
October 24 2011, 12:16PM
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@keilan

I categorically disagree on Barker. He's looked completely disinterested. The way he "finishes" a check is completely laughable, he chases the puck like there *is* a tomorrow, etc. He has sheltered minutes as far as D-men go and has been completely non eventful. Him versus Peckham - right now I'll take Peckham's grit with his brainfarts over Barker's lackadaisical play.

As I said on another thread, if Potter wasn't playing great and Smid/Gilbert somehow turning into a bonafide top 4 pairing, Barker's shortcomings would already be epic-goat level material.

Again though, small sample size. Hoping a lightbulb comes on for him about competitiveness, as he doesn't display much, and to me, that is the exact opposite of where this team should be heading this year.

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#4 OilLeak
October 24 2011, 02:05PM
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Clyde Frog wrote:

Barker + 1, only behind Petry (Who is now in the AHL) and is tied with Theo and Potter.

If Barker stays in the + range by the end of the season then this was a big win signing for the Oil.

I get we aren't even 10 games in, just saying so far our D is holding up well, just wish we had a crisper break out and got a little more generated off the rush after the first 17 minutes of the game.

So far Barker is crap, a part of me hope he improves a bit this year for the sake of the team, but a large part of me hoping he sinks, so he won't be back next year.

It's still early, but Barker has been slow, disinterested and he's playing the cushiest minutes on the team.

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#5 DieHard
October 24 2011, 04:05PM
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Is it just me or have I noticed that during a PK, the Oil, more than before, are winning the face-off and sending the puck down. Then, to top it off, they interrupt the play coming back and push it back, change the PK'ers and repeat. They are not spending the whole 2 minutes or less in their end. This is a good thing and is due to WINNING the face-off.

AND yes, Barker in noticeably SLOW and will eventually burn us.

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#6 dougtheslug
October 24 2011, 11:08PM
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All I know is this: if I played on a team where a mulletted 35 year old was flying into the corner after every shoot in, halfways out of control like it was game seven of the Stanley Cup Final, elbowing to the front of the net knowing full well he was going to get a stick in the ribs or a puck in the chops, doing everything he was asked to do whether it was PK, PP, or just playing the dirtiest minutes against the other teams best, then I sure as hellfire would look at myself in the mirror and make sure I was doing the same. SMITTY IS A GOD!!!!!!!!

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#7 Dimensha
October 24 2011, 02:05AM
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I would like to be the fist to say that I love the improvements

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#8 Clarence Oveur
October 24 2011, 06:33AM
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That's why when Tom Renney said he was line-matching last season, I only took it to be coach speak...he wasn't going to say "I'm just throwing guys out there to see if they can handle a particular situation," when in fact that's exactly what he was doing (at least in my eyes).

Now we're seeing what Renney really is about now that he has an improved club and the ability to be selective in who he puts out on the ice and when.

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#9 Clarence Oveur
October 24 2011, 06:33AM
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Woodguy wrote:

Ah, you can make your stats say anything, why don't you just watch the g....wait....the stats say the Oilers are good?

Whoo!! Stats are awesome!

Feel better now that you got that off of your chest?

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#10 Shredder
October 24 2011, 07:10AM
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Is the Nuge a PP specialist? He's looked good 5 X 5, but that was a big concern going into this year...either way, his addition has helped the PP. Belanger and Smytty on the PK look great. It's exciting to see these guys change their team completely in a year.

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#11 OilFan
October 24 2011, 07:23AM
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I wasn't happy with the lose to Calgary and Minny. Wasn't happy with the defense first change. Now I seem to like it ( 1 win later). At the very least the defense first style will keep the Oilers in some games and give them a chance of winning every night. Good work

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#12 justDOit
October 24 2011, 07:45AM
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It's good to see that the stats back up what we're seeing on the ice. Win or lose, this team is more competitive and the new faces are showing their value.

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#13 michael
October 24 2011, 07:59AM
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Who would have thunk that the Oilers would be this good on Defence? Put up your hands. What I thought. The Oilers have 2 miserable road trips this season. One for CFR. The other covers the WJHC's. The Oilers will see thier share of losses in the not so distant future but it may be mitagated by the defensive play that they have shown recently. We'll see where the chips fall.

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#14 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
October 24 2011, 08:26AM
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I think this highlights just what a fantastic signing Belanger is as well as what a nice upgrade Sutton has been (defensively/PK) over Vandemeer.

Horc and Smyth have also been fantastic.

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#15 RDS
October 24 2011, 08:30AM
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I agree that the real test will be a long road trip. I think then we'll know what kind of team this is. Feeling optimisitc so far though.

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#16 Matt Henderson
October 24 2011, 08:47AM
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I think the Oilers are going to surprise a lot of teams this year.

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#17 friday the FISTeenth
October 24 2011, 08:53AM
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WILLIS YOUR STUPID STATTS SUCK THE OIL ONLY WINND 3 GAMZ SO FAR!!!!!

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#18 Romulus' Apotheosis
October 24 2011, 08:54AM
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7 games in the big difference to me is competitiveness.

This isn't a stats thing, although I'm sure it would show up somehow. More of a "saw them good" deal.

So far we have been in the game, fighting hard till the last second (at least twice to lose in that final second, or few minutes). This is a big improvement over last year.

Partly this is explained by new players and a new season - everyone has their best "back to school" clothes on. But the real difference is for us, the fans. So far we have been able to agonize for a full 60mins before settling into a pool of dejection and disappointment.

My real question is whether they can keep this up. Obviously we will get blown out on occasion. But can we stay competitive through 60mins for the vast majority of the games? Even if we lose a lot of them, I would venture that would be a big improvement. If not only the score sheet, at least in the spirit of the team and its fans.

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#19 Woodguy
October 24 2011, 08:54AM
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Clarence Oveur wrote:

Feel better now that you got that off of your chest?

Yup.

Its the small things that keep me happy. (simple things for simple minds perhaps?)

Thanks for inquiring as to my mental health.

How's yours? Things good?

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#20 Romulus' Apotheosis
October 24 2011, 08:56AM
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@Jonathan

Off topic:

Any word on the Nation Pool?

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#21 A-Mc
October 24 2011, 09:02AM
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Being a half-assed hockey fan, I've never looked much passed the Win/Loss/OT=Pts totals. This year I'm paying closer attention in an attempt to educate myself on the smaller details that matter.

Posts like this are great for people like me and I've very pleased to read that the Oilers are headed in a good direction. As was pointed out in the post, as was shown last year [in part] and as has been shown in the 2 last minute losses last week, The Win/Loss/OT columns aren't always indicative of how good a team is or how well they are playing.

IMO the Oilers have been better than the 3-2-2 would suggest (*cough* More like: 5-1-1). I'm ever-so hopeful that they can keep up the effort for the remainder of the year! If we miss the playoffs but maintain these numbers going forward, i don't think anyone can legitimately gripe about the performance of our new team.

GJ boys! Keep it up =D

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#22 Teddy Nugent
October 24 2011, 09:23AM
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Where's all the stat geeks that said RNH would not score goals in the NHL because he had a "blah blah blah" goals to assists ratio in the Dub? Or he had "blah blah blah" points on the PP compared to even strength?

RNH is here to stay stat geeks. Sending him to the Dub does nothing for him.

* I know it's a small sample size *

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#23 Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"
October 24 2011, 09:30AM
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As I have watched the games there is a look in the eyes of "we are never out of it!" With the sudden possible explosion of points that can happen at any time teams have to be very careful. They do not get in to run and gun with us. If Hemmer can get the shoulder as strong as it needs to be and comes back for the season when it is truly strong opposition teams will have a lot more to think about when it comes to who to assign against the kids and who To assign to Hemmers line It will be pick your poison. I would not want to pay the Oilers Then! Glad I am Cheering for them! Smid has been incredible!

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#24 Clarence Oveur
October 24 2011, 09:42AM
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Woodguy wrote:

Yup.

Its the small things that keep me happy. (simple things for simple minds perhaps?)

Thanks for inquiring as to my mental health.

How's yours? Things good?

"I can't complain, but sometimes I still do." - Joe Walsh

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#25 Dipstick
October 24 2011, 09:56AM
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@Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

"I would not want to pay the Oilers Then!"

I wouldn't want to play them either!

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#26 FastOil
October 24 2011, 10:01AM
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A big difference I have seen is puck pursuit. Other teams aren't getting nearly as much room as last year, the Oilers often winning possession. I think that is the driver behind the shot totals - have puck more = good.

It's gonna kill me if we draft 14-16th this year. Seems a year too early. I'd hate to lose the last free high end talent infusion after all the crap we've watched the last few years.

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#27 Romulus' Apotheosis
October 24 2011, 10:11AM
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FastOil wrote:

A big difference I have seen is puck pursuit. Other teams aren't getting nearly as much room as last year, the Oilers often winning possession. I think that is the driver behind the shot totals - have puck more = good.

It's gonna kill me if we draft 14-16th this year. Seems a year too early. I'd hate to lose the last free high end talent infusion after all the crap we've watched the last few years.

Your starting to sound like Quicksilver!

I see your point though. There is a threshold in the standings that cuts off at 8th (i.e. last playoff spot). If you are below that, you might as well be way below and get yourself a decent future out of the mix.

But... how do you keep fans interested? How do you keep the development process going... IF you don't emphasize competitiveness (ie. rebounding from tough goals, periods, loses; learning to play a full 60mins; building a positive energy, a spirit of winning). These things are part of development too!

I don't know how to get players/teams to strive beyond their capacity without encouraging them to be successful and building an environment of winning.

It's a catch 22 as far as I see it. I think it is meant to be that way too... Their are significant negatives to folding now for the future and I think the NHL as it is designed now tries to make teams feel that pain.

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#28 Matt Henderson
October 24 2011, 10:15AM
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Is the play of Potter and Smid (especially Smid) a classic case of the NHL defenseman taking to his mid-20's before he begins to reach potential?

Smid, IMO, has been outstanding. I was getting worried if he would ever put it together, but he's just 25 now and already in his 6th season. Potter is also in his 6th Pro season.

Will these guys return to earth with a thud, or have they finally turned the corner and are ready to bring it.

I wonder if this season is set up for a huge rise in the defense, which we all thought would be slaughtered, due to a natural maturation from a couple key members.

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#29 Romulus' Apotheosis
October 24 2011, 10:28AM
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Matt Henderson wrote:

Is the play of Potter and Smid (especially Smid) a classic case of the NHL defenseman taking to his mid-20's before he begins to reach potential?

Smid, IMO, has been outstanding. I was getting worried if he would ever put it together, but he's just 25 now and already in his 6th season. Potter is also in his 6th Pro season.

Will these guys return to earth with a thud, or have they finally turned the corner and are ready to bring it.

I wonder if this season is set up for a huge rise in the defense, which we all thought would be slaughtered, due to a natural maturation from a couple key members.

I hope you are right. D-men take a long time to brew and if Smid is finally paying off that Pronger deal than hot damn! But 7 games in... who knows.

Another thing about Smid. Oiler website has been running these puff pieces asking the team about their favorite movies and such. Smid had been in there smiling away toothlessly, looking like he's having a great time on the team. The team is young and seems to be enjoying each others company. There is no poison (that I know of) on the team. I wonder if that has anything to do with early success... maybe they are all just happy.

Joy and success probably correlate more than we think, or at least more than stats can show.

On a related note (re: Oil video site) -They had a nice video on Brandon Davidson. Looks like one to watch

-How old is Tom Gazzola; he looks 14

-Todd Nelson (coach of the Barons) sounds just like Ricky from TrailerParkBoys

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#30 Walter Sobchak
October 24 2011, 10:28AM
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@Matt Henderson

I couldn't agree more about Smid! And Potter has been a very nice surprise, I just cant shake that feeling the Oilers at some point are going to revert back to last years team.

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#31 Max Powers - Team HME Evans
October 24 2011, 10:33AM
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@Matt Henderson

I sure hope so.

The odds of multiple guys "figuring it out" at the same time are pretty outstanding. I think a lot has to do with luck, goaltending, coaching and playing system.

My opinion is that these guys fall back to earth but that they will have good seasons. So far they look exceptional.

Tambo is going to look like a genius if Potter keeps it up.

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#32 keilan
October 24 2011, 10:46AM
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As long as RNH continues to be our biggest offensive threat – scoring 5 of the teams 12 goals I’ll try and temper my enthusiasm. It’s not necessarily a good thing when a 18 yo is our best offensive player to date……

Until Eberle finds the back-of-the-net and we begin getting some secondary scoring from the 3rd and 4th lines will I begin to believe that our team can go on a losing skid and hold things together.

The schedule has been favorable but wait until November when they get on the road more, can this team remain confident when they begin losing more then they’re winning? The mental makeup of many pro athletes/teams can be pretty fragile!

I fully expect that the passion and will to succeed that we see from Taylor Hall on many occasions will shine its brightest when this team is searching for leadership. Hopkins on the other hand is the most complete 18yo I’ve seen on the Oilers rooster in 30 years.

Cam Barker and Paajarvi have both played much better then they have been given credit for by some of the posters on this site… Not sure what those people are expecting from these guys but both can be valuable pieces to the make-up of this team.

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#35 Westcoastoil
October 24 2011, 11:06AM
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Lowetide has been pounding the desk forever about how good teams find gems in their mid 20s (Cleary for eg.) who for different reasons - Europe, log jam at their position, other - are available and can help.

Petrell has been an effective addition, solid pk, safe 4th line play & at the very least buying time for Hartikainen to develop where he should.

Potter you could argue has been a lynchpin on the D, allowing everyone else to play in a role that lines up with their strengths/abilities. Sutton, Barker & Peckham in the 3rd pairing, each having to earn his ice time and Petry getting big ice time in the A where he can hone his skills.

Do we hear a "clap clap" for the pro-scouting group ~ shuddering as I type ~

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#37 Romulus' Apotheosis
October 24 2011, 11:11AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Romulus' Apotheosis:

We'll give it a little longer, but afterward we'll be updating the Nation Pool weekly.

Sweet! Thanks for the update. I don't think I was alone in wondering if the whole thing was a phantom of my imagination.

Weekly update is a good idea. Keep us from getting too rabid about it to the detriment of hockey itself.

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#38 darkhorse playa
October 24 2011, 11:11AM
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Now "IF" the Oilers send down RNH to juniors after the 10 starts this year, and start him next year, would he lose the points he made this season? and would he be still considered a rookie again next year? Just wondering...

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#39 Smokey
October 24 2011, 11:14AM
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Id usually be happy with a decent start like this, but watching Oilers games this season has been like paint drying this year. I gotta say that I almost enjoyed an exciting loss last year over this years boring win.

I look forward to Hemsky returning, not cause he can help the team win, but because hes damn well electrifying, and Ryan Jones can go back to the third line soon please...

Give me firewagon hockey or give me death.

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#40 Captain Obvious
October 24 2011, 11:18AM
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The key words here are schedule effects. The Oilers have played the Wild twice, the Flames, and the Predators. The Flames are terrible, the Wild might be terrible, and the Predators look terrible.

The Oil have been much better this year for sure however the competition hasn't been great either.

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#41 Dan the Man
October 24 2011, 11:20AM
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Westcoastoil wrote:

Lowetide has been pounding the desk forever about how good teams find gems in their mid 20s (Cleary for eg.) who for different reasons - Europe, log jam at their position, other - are available and can help.

Petrell has been an effective addition, solid pk, safe 4th line play & at the very least buying time for Hartikainen to develop where he should.

Potter you could argue has been a lynchpin on the D, allowing everyone else to play in a role that lines up with their strengths/abilities. Sutton, Barker & Peckham in the 3rd pairing, each having to earn his ice time and Petry getting big ice time in the A where he can hone his skills.

Do we hear a "clap clap" for the pro-scouting group ~ shuddering as I type ~

I think we need to thank Renney more for Potter than the pro-scouting group as he had him with the Rangers when he was there.

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#43 book¡e
October 24 2011, 11:56AM
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darkhorse playa wrote:

Now "IF" the Oilers send down RNH to juniors after the 10 starts this year, and start him next year, would he lose the points he made this season? and would he be still considered a rookie again next year? Just wondering...

I don't understand what you mean by 'lose the points this season'. Lose them towards what? His NHL stats would say 9 games, x goals, x assists. Those points would not count in any other league.

He would be a rookie next year as there is a certain number of games that you have to play before losing rookie status (something like 20 games?).

Edit:To be considered a rookie, a player must not have played in 25 or more NHL games in any preceding seasons, nor in six or more NHL games in each of any two preceding seasons. Any player at least 26 years of age (by September 15th of that season) is not considered a rookie.

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#44 Walter Sobchak
October 24 2011, 12:23PM
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@Jonathan Willis

Would you consider 500 hockey in the month of November a success? I think they have 3 or 4 back to back games. to lazy to look.

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#45 madjam
October 24 2011, 12:32PM
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Was not hard to put on a better defence than last season . Petry not yet ready and neither was Peckham . Throw in better face off personnel , more experienced personnel and RNHopkins contribution and one should have expected a much better club this sesason . Not terrific , but much better than last 2 seasons of downgrades and fillins . Will they collapse like last 2 seasons , unlikely as they should just get better when Hemsky returns . Despite all this improvement , we still have room for last years crop of newbies to get better than they have shown as well as perhaps Landers , Hordichuk and Eager yet to hit stride . I see more improvement over this year , and quite frankly expect it shown in results .

Will Hopkins remain - i believe he will so long as Oilers are dedicated to playing winning and competitive hockey this season . If not , then they'll send him back to Juniors .

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#46 Talbot17
October 24 2011, 12:34PM
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Smokey wrote:

Id usually be happy with a decent start like this, but watching Oilers games this season has been like paint drying this year. I gotta say that I almost enjoyed an exciting loss last year over this years boring win.

I look forward to Hemsky returning, not cause he can help the team win, but because hes damn well electrifying, and Ryan Jones can go back to the third line soon please...

Give me firewagon hockey or give me death.

Too bad Hemsky isnt even practicing yet.

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#47 darkhorse playa
October 24 2011, 12:38PM
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book¡e wrote:

I don't understand what you mean by 'lose the points this season'. Lose them towards what? His NHL stats would say 9 games, x goals, x assists. Those points would not count in any other league.

He would be a rookie next year as there is a certain number of games that you have to play before losing rookie status (something like 20 games?).

Edit:To be considered a rookie, a player must not have played in 25 or more NHL games in any preceding seasons, nor in six or more NHL games in each of any two preceding seasons. Any player at least 26 years of age (by September 15th of that season) is not considered a rookie.

Thanks for your reply. So these points would be carried over or contributed to his rookie stats and for the Calder race if he starts as a rookie next year?

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#48 Dan the Man
October 24 2011, 12:44PM
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darkhorse playa wrote:

Thanks for your reply. So these points would be carried over or contributed to his rookie stats and for the Calder race if he starts as a rookie next year?

A players points over 2 seasons would never carry over or be combined. He would be a rookie next year but he would start at 0-0-0 just like everyone else. Have you ever seen a player begin the season with points?

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#50 Romulus' Apotheosis
October 24 2011, 12:48PM
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m3sh wrote:

I categorically disagree on Barker. He's looked completely disinterested. The way he "finishes" a check is completely laughable, he chases the puck like there *is* a tomorrow, etc. He has sheltered minutes as far as D-men go and has been completely non eventful. Him versus Peckham - right now I'll take Peckham's grit with his brainfarts over Barker's lackadaisical play.

As I said on another thread, if Potter wasn't playing great and Smid/Gilbert somehow turning into a bonafide top 4 pairing, Barker's shortcomings would already be epic-goat level material.

Again though, small sample size. Hoping a lightbulb comes on for him about competitiveness, as he doesn't display much, and to me, that is the exact opposite of where this team should be heading this year.

I think we really have to manage expectations with Barker.

Has he looked like a Top 4 D-man that can rack up points, crush opponents and make amazing first passes like S. Niedermeyer? No.

Did anyone think he would... I doubt it. He has clearly climbed way down from his draft position and his 08-09 season.

But, he is not paid anywhere near that level. He's trying to find his feet and so far I've seen a decent performance by an average D. He hasn't been the glaring liability some seem to think he is, nor the "worst player in the league" as someone said the other day. I've actually seen him make a few solid set-up passes.

At any rate, the team needs a Goat and he seems like a fine candidate. But all Goats need someone to balance out the criticism.

My position: he is adequate for the role he is playing now. If he doesn't develop, it's no loss to the team - cut him loose. If he does (he is still young after all), we get a NHL D for cheap who will be loyal to the team that took a chance on him. For those reasons, I'm cutting him slack.

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